Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 332

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

Pasco businessman Ardian Zika to run for House District 37 seat

Land O’ Lakes business owner and banker Ardian Zika is the latest Republican to file to run for the Pasco County state House seat being vacated by term-limited Richard Corcoran.

The 37-year-old Zika was born in the former Yugoslavia and emigrated to the U.S. from Kosovo in 1997.

“I’m the product of American exceptionalism and I, like you, am working tirelessly in pursuit of the American Dream,” said Zika in a statement released Tuesday.

“Our campaign puts Floridians First so each one has an opportunity to reach the American Dream through upward economic mobility,” he says. “I’ll champion bold and visionary ideas to unleash the American entrepreneurial spirit of innovation and transform our community. As your State Representative, I’ll fight for lower taxes, less regulation and more personal responsibility and to protect our constitutional rights.’

Zika has spent the past 14 years in the banking industry before starting up his own business advisory company, Guardian & Company I, earlier this year.

He’s a known quantity in GOP circles, having been appointed by Governor Rick Scott to the Florida Council on Homelessness, the Pasco Hernando State College Board of Trustees and the CareerSource Florida Board of Directors in recent years.

In 2015, Zika was named by the Tampa Bay Business Journal as a “40 under 40 Up and Comer.”

After immigrating to the U.S. twenty years ago, Zika moved to Louisiana and attended Louisiana Tech University, where he received a B.S. in marketing. He also became very involved politically there, as he was elected to the student senate, served as student government executive vice-president, student senate president, student government supreme Court chief Justice and Vice President of the College Republican Club.

He later received a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Saint Leo University.

Zika and his wife, Tasha, have five children and are active members of Idlewild Baptist Church.

He is now the fourth Republican to enter the race, along with George Agovino, Bill Gunter and Elle Rudisill. Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey is also reportedly contemplating a run in HD 37.

Cannabis lab tester Signal Bay now in Fort Lauderdale market

With medical marijuana legal in Florida and the Department of Health now mandated to begin issuing medical marijuana treatment center licenses and identification cards for qualifying patients and caregivers this fall, more businesses involved in the growing cannabis industry are coming to the Sunshine State.

Signal Bay, Inc., a leading provider of cannabis testing and advisory services, announced Monday that its cannabis testing division EVIO Labs has licensed its first lab in Florida.  Officials with the organization have informed FloridaPolitics that the exact location will be in Fort Lauderdale.

Kaycha Holdings, LLC will operate under the EVIO Labs brand and the lab will be managed by a lab director with over 18 years of experience in development of Nutraceutical and Pharmaceutical Products.

“With operations in California, Oregon and soon to be Massachusetts, Signal Bay is proud to bring its accredited testing services to Florida,” said Signal Bay CEO William Waldrop. “This expansion into Florida allows Signal Bay to continue to execute on its core mission of ensuring medical patients have access to clean cannabis.  Our Florida expansion also marks another first as we executed our first license agreement.   We are excited to have found a partner with deep ties into the community and shares our common core values.”

“We are excited to help ensure clean and safe cannabis to the patients of Florida.  Our partnership with EVIO offers strong support to achieve our goal,” said Christopher Martinez, president and co-founder of Kaycha Holdings, LLC. “EVIO Labs is known for their strength and breadth of knowledge in the marijuana testing industry and raises the standard of cannabis testing throughout the state. With EVIO’s experienced team and proven testing methodologies we will ensure Florida treatment centers sell only the highest quality cannabis.”

Under the medical marijuana bill passed by the Florida Legislature this year, there will be 10 new licensed growers in the state in addition to the seven that already exist. The law requires another four licenses to be issued for every 100,000 patients added to the state’s medical marijuana registry, and allows growers to open 25 dispensaries, plus an additional five dispensaries for every 100,000 patients.

Bill Nelson says U.S. should consider cutting off Venezuelan oil imports

Donald Trump is imposing sanctions directly on Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro after a vote Sunday that many see as a step toward rewriting his country’s constitution.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is completely behind the sanctions, saying it’s time for the U.S. to “consider cutting off imports of Venezuelan oil.”

The directive from the Treasury Department freezes any of Maduro’s assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prevents U.S. persons from dealing with him.

“Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday. “By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela who seek to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy.

“I talked to Treasury and we have frozen the assets of Venezuela’s dictator, Nicolas Maduro, and I expect other countries will follow,” Nelson said in a statement. “This is the first in what I hope are the strongest possible economic sanctions to stop Maduro from instituting a Cuban-style regime.”

Florida’s other senator, Republican Marco Rubio, has also been front and center in calling for the Trump administration to impose sanctions on the Maduro government. Last week, Rubio warned of a “very strong response” from Trump if Venezuela went through with what he termed a “fraudulent vote,” delivering a list of Venezuelan officials that he hoped that Trump would issue sanctions to before yesterday’s vote.

That prompted comments from top Venezuelan officials that Rubio and CIA Director Mike Pompeo of secretly conspiring against Caracas so that Washington could install new leaders amenable to U.S. interests. Speaking in Aspen earlier this month, Pompeo said he was “hopeful that there can be a transition in Venezuela and we the CIA is doing its best to understand the dynamic there”.

“The sanctions imposed today on Nicolas Maduro are warranted,” Rubio said on Monday. “However, I remain confident the president will keep his clear commitment to impose economic sanctions on the regime if they convene the illegitimate Constituent Assembly.”

The Constituent Assembly chosen Sunday will meet as soon as this week to discuss changing the charter rewritten under former socialist leader Hugo Chávez. The opposition says the rewrite is meant to replace a critical congress and delay general elections.

Over the past year, Venezuela has become engulfed in a political and economic crisis, which led to shortages in food and medicine as well as government violence against protesters.

For years, Rubio has called out the Maduro regime, while Nelson hasn’t been as public in his criticisms. That makes his comments Monday particularly noteworthy, especially when he said it may be time for the U.S. to stop buying Venezuelan oil.

Venezuela is the third-largest oil supplier to the U.S. — sending 10 percent of its imports last year — and the top supplier to refineries on the Gulf Coast. There are some concerns that cutting off the oil would only further devastate the Venezuelan economy.

Nelson is running for re-election for the Senate next year, probably against Gov. Rick Scott, who has been adroit in talking tough about the Maduro government.

Last week, Scott announced the details of his proposal to the Trustees of the Florida State Board of Administration (SBA) that would prohibit the State of Florida from doing business with any organization that supports the Maduro regime.

Fifteen days ago, in a nonbinding straw poll in Miami, Tampa, Orlando and a host of other Florida cities, more than 93,000 Venezuelan-Americans voted to let people know their opinions about the Maduro administration’s plan to elect the National Constituent Assembly yesterday.


Charlie Crist says missile defense might be necessary to stop a North Korean missile

With diplomacy a seemingly lost cause for addressing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Charlie Crist says it’s time to put our trust in the military to protect the country from a possible attack from Kim Jong Un‘s regime.

“The time for talk is over,” U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Sunday in dismissing a question about whether America should go back to the United Nations and ramp up sanctions on the North Korean government after they tested a long-range missile last week that could potentially hit American cities beyond the West Coast.

The test has been called more advanced than the intercontinental ballistic missile launched July 4 and marks a significant step forward from a country once thought incapable of putting forward a serious ICBM program.

With China not wanting to use its influence to control the North Korean government, U.S. options seem limited. But Crist says he’d been reading a lot about the U.S. missile defense systems and thinks it may need to come down to that.

“Because of technology, we’ve become much better at being able to take care of missiles like that, if need be in the air before they get to the ground,” Crist said Monday.

Ronald Reagan called for the development of a missile-defense system in a 1983 speech when he discussed what was known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), but was mocked as a “Star Wars ” defense in the media. Reagan’s speech laid out a vision for long-term investment in technological development, possibly involving everything from satellites to lasers.

SDI ultimately morphed into what is now known as the Missile Defense Agency, which asked for proposals last month to build a high-altitude long-endurance unmanned aircraft capable of flying higher than 63,000 feet and carrying a laser to shoot down ballistic missiles as they arc upward.

The U.S. military announced over the weekend that it had tested the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in Alaska by launching a ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean.

“In addition to successfully intercepting the target, the data collected will allow the Missile Defense Agency to enhance the THAAD weapon system,” U.S. Missile Defense Agency director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves told CNNMilitary officials told CNN this was the 15th such test for the THAAD weapon system.

“They called it ‘Star Wars,'” Crist said of the missile defense developed in the 1980s. “Thank God they developed that thing, because if we have a rogue nation like North Korea get more serious about this, God forbid, it’s good to have a good defense system in place so that we can protect our people.”

The MDA has said that they hope to have their technology ready by 2023.

Crist leaves Tuesday for an eight-day trip congressional visit to Israel, where he last visited as Florida’s governor in 2007.

“Things change, as we all know, and I’m sure that things have changed significantly, so I’m anxious to see it up close and get educated again by people in the government in Israel,” Crist said.

Sponsoring the trip is the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC.

Legislative aide John Rodriguez eyes HD 62 race

John Rodriguez, a former legislative aide to House Democrats Janet Cruz, Bob Henriquez, Michael Scionti and Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (who switched to the GOP since), now hopes to succeed Cruz in the Tampa-area House District 62 seat. Read more

Dem poll says Annette Taddeo has slight lead over Jose Felix Diaz in SD 40 race

A Democratic polling firm says Democrat Annette Taddeo has a four-point lead over Republican Jose Felix Diaz going into the Sept. 26 special election in Senate District 40, but the margin of error makes it a dead heat on the first day general election campaigning.

The survey — which was conducted between June 21 and June 26, one month before the special primary — showed Taddeo led Diaz, 42 percent to 38 percent. The poll of 400 likely special election voters was completed by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, a Washington, D.C.-based firm. It has a margin of error of 4.9 percent.

On Tuesday, both candidates easily won their primary races in the Miami-Dade County seat. Diaz, a member of the Florida House, surged over former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla by thirty points an extremely fierce GOP primary. Taddeo received more than 70 percent of the vote against Ana Rivas Logan, a Republican-turned Democrat and former Miami-Dade County School Board member.

President Donald Trump could be a factor in the race. The president’s popularity is underwater in Senate District 40, with 56 percent of respondents saying they had an unfavorable opinion of Trump. Half of the respondents said they had a “very unfavorable opinion” of Trump. According to the polling memo, 40 percent of respondents said they had a favorable opinion of the president.

The GOP health care bill also gets bad reviews, with only 18 percent of those surveyed favorable towards, and 52 percent showing disapproval.

That could spell trouble for Diaz, who has known Trump for several years. He was a contestant on Trump’s “The Apprentice” reality show, and was believed to be in the running to become South Florida’s top federal prosecutor.

Democrats view the South Florida district as a potential pick-up, and pollsters said in a memo that Taddeo “enters the general election well-positioned to flip a seat for Democrats in the State Senate.”

According to the memo, the June poll showed Taddeo’s vote share increased after voter hear “balanced positives on her and Jose Felix Diaz.” The pollsters report Taddeo opens a 10-point lead over Diaz once they hear about her background and are “receptive to Taddeo’s positive profile.”

The memo notes Taddeo has a 16-point lead among registered no-party affiliation voters, and that a “generic Democratic brand appears stronger than the GOP brand.”

“With a current Taddeo lead, an unpopular President, and a plethora of potent hits against Republicans, Democrats should be excited about the special election in SD-40 this September,” wrote the pollsters.

Democrat Andrew Learned staffs up ahead of Dennis Ross challenge

Andrew Learned, the 30-year-old Navy veteran from Bloomingdale seeking the Democratic nomination for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, announced Wednesday the addition of several new staff members.

However, the biggest news is that Learned signed on with Blue Ticket Consulting, the St. Petersburg based Democratic firm led by Tom Alte. Blue Ticket had been behind several successful Tampa Bay-area campaigns last year.

“Bringing Tom and his team on board with us is a huge win in helping continue to lead the Democratic effort to gather the resources we’ll need to flip what we know is the closest swing district in the Tampa Bay region,” Learned said in a statement.

Calling the CD 15 seat the “closest swing district” in the region’s congressional politics may not be that much of a stretch, but the fact remains that no Democrat has been remotely competitive there for years, certainly not since GOP incumbent Dennis Ross won the seat after it was vacated by Adam Putnam in 2010.

Alte had been working as campaign finance fundraising director for Greg Pilkington, another Democrat in the race.

The Learned campaign also announced Rosalind Moffett will serve as campaign manager; Tristan Pike is campaign coordinator; Ashley Motley will serve as creative and social media director.

Moffett worked on congressional campaigns in the district for Doug Tudor, a Democrat who lost to Putnam in 2008 and fellow Democrat Lori Edwards in 2010.

“I am excited to have so quickly grown our grassroots campaign to now be able to field the most talented and experienced campaign team in the region,” Learned said. “It is a testament to the energy and resolve to bring a new generation of leadership to Washington.”

Five Democrats are running for the chance to challenge Ross next year: Learned, Pilkington, Cameron Magnuson, Ray Pena and Greg Williams.

Mary Barzee Flores enters race to succeed Illeana Ros-Lehtinen

Former state judge Mary Barzee Flores is the latest Democrat to run for the Congressional District 27 seat being vacated by Illeana Ros-Lehtinen next year.

“I’m running for Congress because I believe our politics and our politicians have gotten too small and the challenges we face are too big,” Barzee Flores said in a statement issued Wednesday. “I refuse to sit back and watch as tens of millions of Americans lose their health care, our public schools fall into ruin, our environment is ravaged, our heroes are neglected and disrespected, and our children’s futures are squandered away by stupidity and greed.”

A lifelong Miami resident, Barzee Flores spent 12 years working as a Federal Public Defender in the U.S. Southern District of Florida. In 2002, Mary left the Public Defenders office when she was elected, without opposition, to a seat on the Miami Circuit Court. After retiring from the bench in 2011, she was nominated by President Obama for a federal judgeship.

She never became a judge though after fellow Miami resident Marco Rubio blocked her nomination in the U.S. Senate. In her press release announcing her candidacy, Barzee Flores cites her past support for the ACLU and EMILY’s List, a group that elects pro-choice, women Democrats as reasons why.

Rubio said Barzee Flores wasn’t candid about her involvement in a case involving claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and that she wasn’t forthcoming enough about prior support for groups such as EMILY’s List. POLITICO reported last year that Rubio staffers said Barzee Flores gave conflicting answers about the groups to the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee and to the Judicial Nominating Commission, which recommends attorneys for the bench in Florida.

Other Republicans disagreed. Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Al Cardenas told POLITICO that Barzee Flores was “not a partisan pick.”

She enters an extremely crowded Democratic field in a seat that has been occupied by a Republican for the past 29 years. But CD 27 is a decidedly Democratic seat, with Hillary Clinton winning there by more than 20 points over Donald Trump in 2016.

State Representative David Richardson, state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Miami DEC member Michael Hepburn.

Dr. Maria Peiro is the only Republican to enter the contest.

The 27th includes all or portions of Coral Gables, Cutler Bay, Key Biscayne, Miami, Miami Beach, Pinecrest, South Miami and Westchester.

Florida awash in $36M of stolen firearms, new report estimates

An estimated 80,000 guns are stolen from individual gun owners in Florida between 2012 and 2015, costing around $36 million, according to a new report published Tuesday.

The Center for American Progress, a progressive group based in Washington, released a state-by-state analysis of the scope of guns thefts in America, finding that a firearm  is stolen in the U.S. every two minutes and every 26 minutes from a private gun owner in the Sunshine State.

“In just one day, there are 720 guns stolen in the U.S. In Florida, it’s 55 a day. And those are just the reported thefts. Stolen guns put us all at risk,” said Patti Brigham, 1st vice president of the League of Women Voters of Florida and co-chairs the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.

Using data supplied by the FBI, the authors report that nearly half a billion dollars worth of guns were stolen from individual gun owners between 2012 and 2015, amounting to an estimated 1.2 million guns. Just nine states and Washington, D.C., have laws mandating that gun owners report when guns in their possession are stolen or lost, and there is nothing in federal law that requires gun dealers to implement any specific security measures to help protect their dangerous inventory.

The authors report that more than 80,000 guns in Florida were stolen between 2012-2015, but that number is only an estimate. The FBI just reports on the value of guns reported stolen, and the Center for American Progress then calculated a number of guns based on an average gun price of $450.

An official with the Center for American Progress provided the breakdown by year in terms of the number of stolen guns: 20,745 in 2012; 19,521 in 2013; 19,411 in 2014 and 20,502 in 2015.

Illinois Democratic Representative Brad Schneider on Tuesday introduced legislation to help prevent thefts from gun stores. That bill would require licensed gun dealers to implement certain security measures to ensure that guns are stored securely during nonbusiness hours, and will direct the U.S. Attorney General to implement regulations requiring additional security measures for licensed gun dealers.


Rick Kriseman: ‘NRA-owned politicians’ should pay legal fees from ‘Docs. vs. Glocks’

While serving in the state Legislature, Rick Kriseman was so repelled by a 2011 bill that prohibited pediatricians from asking any questions about gun use or ownership unless it was relevant to their patients’ care or safety that he filed a bill to repeal it.

Though that proposal went nowhere in the GOP-led Legislature, critics of the bill — dubbed as “docs versus Glocks” — have received the last word on the issue, after a federal judge struck down the law last month.

Governor Rick Scott has now approved a deal to pay $1.1 million in legal fees to groups that successfully challenged the NRA-backed Florida law, and Kriseman says that money should come from the lawmakers who supported the law, not Florida taxpayers.

“The NRA-owned politicians in Tallahassee, not Florida taxpayers, should be forced to pay these legal fees,” Kriseman told Tuesday.

Kriseman served in the state Legislature representing St. Petersburg and other parts of Southern Pinellas County from 2006-2012. He opted not to run for re-election in 2012, and instead focused on the 2013 St. Petersburg mayoral contest, where he defeated incumbent Bill Foster. He is now running in a contested re-election battle this summer.

The Firearms Owners’ Privacy Act, as the bill was officially called, was enormously controversial from the time it was introduced during the 2011 legislative session in Tallahassee. Supporters said it was a reaction to a handful of highly publicized cases, including an incident in which a health professional privately asked children if their mother owned guns and an Ocala pediatrician who, in 2010, dropped a patient after she called his query about her gun ownership an invasion of privacy.

Shortly after it was passed in the Legislature, doctors challenged it in court.

“Each year, Florida children are harmed when they or other children gain access to firearms that have not been stored properly,” said the 2011 suit. The case, which became known as “Doc vs Glocks,” wound its way from the state to the federal court system over the course of six years.

In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta ruled that the matter was not one of the Second Amendment, which protects the right to bear arms, but the First. The court ruled in a 10 to 1 decision that the law infringed upon doctors’ freedom of speech.

At the time he filed his bill, Kriseman called his Republican colleagues who supported the bill in the legislature as being “hypocritical,” declaring such a law is antithetical to traditional conservative concerns about excessive government regulations and government involvement in health care.

Ropes & Gray, one of the law firms on the case that will receive legal fees, immediately announced it would donate $100,000 of its fee award to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, enabling the center to “expand its initiatives to protect children from the risks posed by guns,” the release said.

“Florida taxpayers just paid $1.1 million because of the gun industry’s unconstitutional, anti-truth agenda designed to increase gun sales at any cost — including children’s lives,” said Brady Center president Dan Gross in a statement.

“Physicians have a critical role to play in preventing these deaths by talking to patients about the true dangers of guns in the home, and we will not allow their voices to be silenced by the gun industry,” he added. “This award is a message to states to think twice before enacting or defending laws that put lives at risk just to boost the gun industry’s bottom line.”

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